Network Rail has completed the renewal of a section of track in Newsham which is preparation work for a pioneering project to open the Northumberland line and bring back regular rail services between Ashington and Newcastle.
The regenerative project called The Northumberland Line Scheme will include upgrading 18 miles of track and signalling, opening six new stations and building three new footbridges all of which will support communities, improving transport links for passengers and economic growth in Northumberland and surrounding areas.
The Northumberland line was closed to the travelling public in 1964 as part of the brutal Beeching cuts which tore the heart out of the public transport network, leaving communities stranded.
Network Rail have taken essential steps to renew 600 yards of rails and components which had been used for freight for years.
The Department for Transport provided £34million to Network Rail for the essential work from the Restoring Your Railway fund with further funding yet to be announced based upon final designs.
Also working as partners to the project are Northumberland County Council and train operator Northern. It is expected that passenger trains will return by 2024.
David Underwood, Senior Programme Manager for Network Rail’s North and East route, said: “It’s amazing to see work to reopen the Northumberland line finally begin. This is a promising first step in an ambitious project which will revitalise rail in the area and see regular passenger services return.
“Once complete, the new line will provide the people of Northumberland with access to new opportunities and connect the communities along the line.
“Throughout the project, we’re planning to use local labour and engage with local businesses where possible.”
Northumberland County Council Deputy Leader, Councillor Richard Wearmouth, said: “It is a great milestone to finally see work to return passenger services physically happening on the line.
“While there’s so much going on behind the scenes, the progress feels more tangible when you can actually see it on the ground and this is an exciting time for everyone involved.
“We’re looking forward to the scheme continuing at pace as we work towards services starting by 2024.”
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